• House Passes Law to Revoke Passports of Americans Affiliated with Terror Organizations

    August 3, 2015 // 2 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Police State, Post-Constitution America

    passport revoked


    The House of Representatives quietly passed a bill at the end of July allowing the State Department to revoke or deny passports to Americans with connections to “foreign terrorist organizations.”

    The measure, which passed by a voice vote after only a 15-minute debate, in theory aims to prevent “lone wolves” from traveling abroad to join a terror organization, or, if their passports are revoked while they are abroad, from returning to the United States.

    “The Benedict Arnold traitors who have turned against America and joined the ranks of the terrorist army ISIS should lose all rights afforded to our citizens,” Ted Poe (R-Texas), the bill’s sponsor, said. “These people are not returning to America to open coffee shops, they are coming back to kill. We must stop them from coming back at all.”

    The full text of the three-page bill is quite open-ended as to how this process will work, stating the criteria only as “aided, assisted, abetted, or otherwise helped an organization the Secretary of State has designated as a foreign terrorist organization.”

    The travel restriction requires no presumption of innocence for the targeted individual, no explanation, no public presentation of evidence, no opportunity for a defense, no checks and balances on the power. The bill does not outline any appeals or other forms of due process for the target. The only stipulation is that the Secretary of State report the action to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in either classified or unclassified form. Senate approval is required for the new bill to become law.


    The Bill represents another step for a government that increasingly seeks to control its citizens by arbitrary standards (see the No-Fly list). But the bill is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

    The Government of the United States has had for some time the ability to take away passports from American Citizens because “The Secretary of State determines that the applicant’s activities abroad are causing or are likely to cause serious damage to the national security or the foreign policy of the United States.” That sliver of law means if the government feels it is against its interest for you to have a passport and thus the freedom to travel, to depart the United States if you wish to, it will just take it away. The law allows them to do this prospectively, the “or are likely to cause…” part of the law, meaning you don’t need to have done anything. The government just needs to decide that you might.

    The last public use of this law was in 2011, when prior to having him and his 16-year-old son away blown away via drone, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton secretly revoked the passport of Anwar al-Awlaki, al Qaeda propagandist and U.S. Citizen.


    I have been unable to track down other recent public examples where the U.S. Government revoked the passport of an American simply because his/her presence abroad bothered – or might bother – the Secretary of State. In fact, the only example I was able to locate was that of infamous ex-CIA officer Philip Agee, who in the 1970’s exposed CIA officers identities. It was Agee’s case that prompted a Supreme Court review of the Department of State’s ability to revoke passports simply because the government didn’t want you to travel abroad (the Supreme’s upheld the government’s ability to do so based on a 1926 law after lower courts said no.

    The Court stated “The right to hold a passport is subordinate to national security and foreign policy considerations.”



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • U.S. Navy Pays $9 million a Year to Cling to Windows XP

    August 1, 2015 // 5 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Iraq

    winxppro

    Getting ready for that free update to Windows 10? Using the latest OS on your iPhone-Apple Watch-MacBook setup? Smart enough to have moved to a full-on Linux system?


    If you answered YES to any of the questions above, you are not the U.S. Navy. The Navy is still running Windows XP, a decent enough system when it came out in 2001, fourteen years ago. Fourteen years in computer time is like twenty million people years, FYI. Dinosaurs still roamed the earth when Xp came out. You probably aren’t driving the same car you had in 2001, are you?

    The choice to use the obsolete operating system costs the Navy $9 million every year, as Microsoft stopped providing free technical support and security updates for Windows XP over a year ago. Never one to leave a buck on the table, especially when it is a taxpayer dollars, Microsoft provided the option of continued support for XP for a price. That’s what the Navy has to pay for.

    For those keeping track, there are four versions of Windows that are newer than XP – Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and the soon-to-be released Windows 10. The Navy said it has plans to upgrade to one of those (oh sure, go for Vista!) by July 2016, but there’s a chance it will take even longer. Consequently, the Navy’s contract with Microsoft includes an option to extend the agreement until June 2017.

    “The Navy relies on a number of applications and programs that are reliant on legacy Windows products,” a spokesman for Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command told CNN. “Until those applications and programs are modernized or phased out, this continuity of services is required to maintain operational effectiveness.”

    ProTip: Never accept a piece of custom software that is reliant on features in a current operating system. That is not smart management. Failure to future-proof software (remember the Y2K thingie?) is great news for contractors and poor planning on the part of government and business.

    And good news, while most of the Navy’s land-based computers have already been upgraded to newer versions of Windows, the 100,000 computers located on ships are the ones that still rely on XP. So sleep safe, America, your sons and daughters at sea are safe in the arms of the mighty XP.


    “Ah, Alpha two niner, this is Nimitz control. Any chance you can ask the Chinese to hold off that missile attack on our fleet? We have to reboot the air defense system, and you know how damn long XP takes.”





    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • UN Gives U.S. Flunking Grades on Privacy

    July 31, 2015 // 10 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Police State, Post-Constitution America

    privacy-card-3x2


    For a nation that goes out of its way to tell everybody else what to do about freedomism, and which still has, on paper at least, Constitutional Fourth Amendment guarantees against unlawful search and seizure, America fails miserably in assuring its citizens their rights.


    In fact, according to a UN study, the self-proclaimed “Exceptional Nation” ranks with China, Bolivia and Djibouti. Yea us!

    A United Nations Human Rights Committee issued midterm report cards for several countries based on how well they adhered to and implemented its recommendations related to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty outlining the rights of all individuals. The U.S. performance overall was “not satisfactory.”

    In particular, the committee noted that the U.S. government failed to establish an adequate oversight system to make sure privacy rights are being upheld, and failed to make sure that any breaches of privacy were regulated and authorized by law, such as requiring a warrant. The lowest grade reflected America’s failure to “ensure affected persons have access to effective remedies in cases of abuse.”

    The committee also expressed dismay at the U.S. failure to “establish the responsibility of those who provided legal pretexts for manifestly illegal behavior.”

    Last year, the Human Rights Committee submitted recommendations to the United States on areas where it could improve the privacy rights of its citizens, following revelations made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. But according to the midterm review, many of those suggestions were not addressed.

    So shut the hell up Americans. You’ll get your freedom when and if the authorities decide to give any to you.







    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Post-Constitutional America, Where Innocence is a Poor Defense

    July 30, 2015 // 3 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Police State, Post-Constitution America

    Rahinah Ibrahim is a slight Malaysian woman who attended Stanford University on a U.S. student visa, majoring in architecture. She was not a political person. Despite this, as part of a post-9/11 sweep directed against Muslims, she was investigated by the FBI. In 2004, while she was still in the U.S. but unbeknownst to her, the FBI sent her name to the no-fly list.

    Ibrahim was no threat to anyone, innocent of everything, and ended up on that list only due to a government mistake. Nonetheless, she was not allowed to reenter the U.S. to finish her studies or even attend her trial and speak in her own defense. Her life was derailed by the tangle of national security bureaucracy and pointless “anti-terror” measures that have come to define post-Constitutional America. Here’s what happened, and why it may matter to you.

    The No-Fly List

    On September 10, 2001, there was no formal no-fly list. Among the many changes pressed on a scared population starting that September 12th were the creation of two such lists: the no-fly list and the selectee list for travelers who were to undergo additional scrutiny when they sought to fly.  If you were on the no-fly list itself, as its name indicated, you could not board a flight within the U.S. or one heading out of or into the country. As a flight-ban plan, it would come to extend far beyond America’s borders, since the list was shared with 22 other countries.

    No one knows how many names are on it. According to one source, 21,000 people, including some 500 Americans, are blacklisted; another puts the figure at 44,000. The actual number is classified.

    On January 2, 2005, unaware of her status as a threat to the United States, Ibrahim left Stanford for San Francisco International Airport to board a flight to Malaysia for an academic conference. A ticket agent saw her name flagged in the database and called the police.

    Despite being wheelchair-bound due to complications from a medical procedure, Ibrahim was handcuffed, taken to a detention cell, and denied access to medication she had in hand. Without explanation, after extensive interrogation, she was allowed to board her flight. When she tried to return to America to resume her studies, however, she found herself banned as a terrorist.

    Suing the United States

    Stuck in Malaysia, though still in possession of a valid student visa, Ibrahim filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, asking to be removed from the no-fly list and allowed back into the country to continue her architectural studies.

    Over almost nine years, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) employed an arsenal of dodges and post-9/11 tricks to impede her lawsuit, including invoking the “state secrets doctrine” to ensure that she would never have access to the records she needed. “State secrets” is not a law in the U.S., as it is, for example, in Great Britain, where the monarch also retains “Crown Privilege,” the absolute right to refuse to share information with Parliament or the courts. Here, it is instead a kind of assumed privilege and the courts accept it as such. Based on it, the president can refuse to produce evidence in a court case on the grounds that its public disclosure might harm national security. The government has, in the past, successfully employed this “privilege” to withhold information and dead-end legal challenges. Once “state secrets” is in play, there is literally nothing left to talk about in court.

    A related DOJ dodge was also brought to bear in an attempt to derail Ibrahim’s case: the use of made-up classification categories that dispatch even routine information into the black world of national security. Much of the information concerning her placement on the no-fly list, for instance, was labeled Security Sensitive Information (SSI) and so was unavailable to her. SSI is among hundreds of post-9/11 security categories created via memo by various federal agencies. These categories, too, have no true legal basis. Congress never passed a law establishing anything called SSI, nor is there any law prohibiting the disclosure of SSI information. The abuse of such pseudo-classifications has been common enough in the post-9/11 years and figured significantly in the ongoing case of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) whistleblower Robert MacLean.

    Next in its end-run around Ibrahim’s lawsuit, the DOJ pulled “standing” out of its bag of tricks. Standing is a legal term that means a person filing a lawsuit has a right to do so. For example, in some states you must be a resident to sue. Seeking to have a case thrown out because the plaintiff does not have standing was a tactic used successfully by the government in other national security cases. The ACLU, for instance, sued the National Security Agency for Fourth Amendment violations in 2008. The Supreme Court rejected the case in 2013 for lack of standing, claiming that unless the ACLU could conclusively prove it had been spied upon, it could not sue. In the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations showing that the NSA indeed spied widely on American citizens, the ACLU has revived the suit.  It claims that the new documents provide clear evidence of broad-based surveillance and so now give it standing.

    Standing was also used by the DOJ in the case of American citizen and purported al-Qaeda member Anwar al-Awlaki, whom the U.S. murdered by drone in Yemen. Prior to his son’s death, attorneys for al-Awlaki’s father tried to persuade a U.S. District Court to issue an injunction preventing the government from killing him. A judge dismissed the case, ruling that the father did not have standing to sue.

    In Ibrahim’s no-fly case, the government argued that since she was not an American citizen, she had no standing to sue the government for its actions against her in the U.S. When all of those non-meritorious challenges failed to stop the case, the government invoked the very no-fly designation Ibrahim was challenging, and refused to allow her to travel to the United States to testify at her own trial.

    Next, Ibrahim’s daughter, an American citizen traveling on a U.S. passport, was not allowed to board a flight from Malaysia to serve as a witness at her mother’s trial. She, too, was told she was on the no-fly list. After some legal tussling, however, she was finally allowed to fly to “the Homeland.” Why the American government changed its mind is classified and almost all of the trial transcript concerning the attempt to stop her from testifying was redacted from public disclosure.

    In addition, by regularly claiming that classified information was going to be presented, the government effectively hid the ludicrous nature of the Ibrahim case from much public scrutiny. The trial was interrupted at least 10 times and the public, including journalists, were asked to leave the courtroom so that “classified evidence” could be presented.

    A message of intimidation had been repeatedly delivered. It failed, however, and Ibrahim’s case went to trial, albeit without her present.

    Ibrahim Wins

    Despite years of effort by the DOJ, Ibrahim won her lawsuit. The U.S. District Court for Northern California ordered the removal of her name from the no-fly list. However, in our evolving post-Constitutional era, what that “victory” revealed should unnerve those who claim that if they are innocent, they have nothing to fear. Innocence is no longer a defense.

    During the lawsuit, it was made clear that the FBI had never intended Ibrahim to be placed on the no-fly list. The FBI agent involved in the initial post-9/11 investigation of Ibrahim simply checked the wrong box on a paper form used to send people into travel limbo. It was a mistake, a slip up, the equivalent of a typo. There was no evidence that the agent intended harm or malice, nor it seems were there any checks, balances, or safeguards against such errors. One agent could, quite literally at the stroke of a pen, end someone’s education, job, and family visits, and there was essentially no recourse.

    Throughout the nine years Ibrahim fought to return to the U.S., it appears that the government either knew all along that she was no threat and tried to cover up its mistake anyway, or fought her bitterly at great taxpayer expense without at any time checking whether the no-fly designation was ever valid. You pick which theory is most likely to disturb your sleep tonight.

    Ibrahim Loses

    Having won her case, Ibrahim went to the airport in Kuala Lumpur to fly back to Stanford and resume her studies. As she attempted to board the plane, however, she was pulled aside and informed that the U.S. embassy in Malaysia had without notice revoked her student visa. No visa meant, despite her court victory, she once again could not return to the United States.

    At the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Ibrahim was handed a preprinted “explanation” for the visa revocation with the word “terrorist” hand-written next to the boilerplate text. Ibrahim was never informed of her right under U.S. law to apply for a waiver of the visa revocation.

    Though it refused to re-issue the visa, the State Department finally had to admit in court that it had revoked the document based solely on a computer “hit” in its name-checking database, the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS.) That hit, in turn, appeared to be a straggler from the now defunct no-fly list entry made erroneously by the FBI.

    The State Department and CLASS

    As is well known, the State Department issued legal visas to all of the 9/11 terrorists. In part, this was because the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies failed to tell State what they knew about the hijackers, as all were suspected to be bad guys. Then and now, such information is passed on when intelligence and law enforcement agencies make electronic entries in State’s computerized lookout system. CLASS is part of the Consular Consolidated Database, one of the largest known data warehouses in the world. As of December 2009, it contained over 100 million cases and 75 million photographs, and has a current growth rate of approximately 35,000 records per day. CLASS also collects the fingerprints of all foreigners issued visas.

    Pre-9/11, various agencies in Washington were reluctant to share information. Now, they regularly dump enormous amounts of it into CLASS. The database has grown 400% since September 11, 2001.

    The problem is that CLASS is a one-way street. Intelligence agencies can put data in, but can’t remove it because State keeps the database isolated from interactive data maintenance. In addition, the basic database it uses to screen out bad guys typically only has a subject’s name, nationality, and the most modest of identifying information, plus a numerical code indicating why a name was entered. One code, 3B, stands for “terrorist”; another, 2A, means “criminal”; and so forth through the long list of reasons the U.S. would not want to issue a visa. Some CLASS listings have just a partial name, and State Department visa-issuing officers regularly wallow through screen after screen of hits like: Muhammad, no last name, no date of birth, Egypt — all marked as “critical, Category One” but with no additional information.

    Nor, when the information exists but was supplied by another agency, do U.S. embassies abroad have direct access to the files. Instead, when a State Department official gets a name “hit” overseas, she must send a “Security Advisory Opinion,” or SAO, back to Washington asking for more information. The recipient of that cable at Foggy Bottom must then sort out which intelligence agency entered the data in the first place and appeal to it for an explanation.

    At that point, intelligence agencies commonly to refuse to share more, claiming that no one at State has the proper clearances and that department should just trust their decision to label someone a bad guy and refuse to issue, or pro-actively revoke, a visa. If, on the other hand, information is shared, it is often done on paper by courier. In other words, a guy shows up at State with a bundle of documents, waits while someone reviews them, and then spirits them back to the CIA, the FBI, or elsewhere. That way, the intelligence agencies, always distrustful of State, are assured that nothing will be leaked or inadvertently disclosed.

    In cases where no more information is available, or what is available is inconclusive, the State Department might allow the visa application to pend indefinitely under the heading “administrative processing,” or simply “prudentially” revoke or not issue the visa. No one wants to risk approving a visa for the next 9/11 terrorist, even if it’s pretty obvious that the applicant is nothing of the sort.

    This undoubtedly is what happened to Ibrahim. Though the details remain classified, State certainly didn’t possess super secret information on her unavailable to other law enforcement or intelligence outfits. Some official surely decided to take no chances and revoked her visa “prudentially” based on the outdated information still lodged in CLASS.

    Not CLASS Alone

    Ibrahim’s case also reveals just how many secret databases of various sorts exist in Washington. Here’s how a name (your name?) gets added to one of those databases, and how it then populates other lists around the world.

    A name is nominated for the no-fly list by one of hundreds of thousands of government officials: an FBI agent, a CIA analyst, a State Department visa officer. Each nominating agency has its own criteria, standards, and approval processes, some — as with the FBI in Ibrahim’s case — apparently pretty sloppy.

    The nominated name is then sent to the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) at a classified location in suburban Northern Virginia. TSC is a multi-agency outfit administered by the FBI and staffed by officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and all of the Intelligence Community.

    Once a name is approved by the TSC (the process is classified), it will automatically be entered into a number of databases, possibly including but not necessarily limited to:

    *the Department of Homeland Security’s no-fly list;

    *that same department’s selectee list that ensures chosen individuals will be subject to additional airport screening;

    *the State Department’s Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS, including CLASS-Visa for foreigners and CLASS-Passport for U.S. Citizens);

    *the Department of Homeland Security’s TECS (a successor to the Treasury Enforcement Communications System), which is used in part by customs officials, as well as its Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS), used by immigration officials;

    *the Known and Suspected Terrorist File (KSTF, previously known as the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organizations File);

    *TUSCAN, a database maintained by Canada;

    *TACTICS, a database maintained by Australia;

    *and finally, an unknown number of other law enforcement and intelligence agency databases, as well as those of other foreign intelligence services with which information may be shared.

    As Ibrahim discovered, once a name is selected, it travels deep and far into both U.S. and foreign databases. If one clears one’s name from one database, there are many others out there waiting. Even a comprehensive victory in one nation’s courts may not affect the records of a third country. And absent frequent travel, a person may never even know which countries have him or her on their lists, thanks to the United States.

    Once she learned that her student visa had been revoked in Malaysia, Ibrahim sued again, asking that the State Department reissue it. The government successfully blocked this suit, citing a long-established precedent that visa matters are essentially an administrative function and so not subject to judicial review.

    A court did scold State for failing to notify Ibrahim of her right to seek a waiver, as it was required to do by law. To the extent that Ibrahim’s case has any life left in it, her next step would be to return to the Department of Justice’s bailiwick and apply for a waiver of the revocation the State Department made based on data given to it by the DOJ that both outfits know was struck down by a court. It’s that “simple.” Meanwhile, she cannot return to the U.S.

    Nothing to Hide?

    A common trope for those considering the way the National Security Agency spies on almost everyone everywhere all the time is that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. If your cell phone conversations are chit-chats with mom and your emails tend toward forwards of cute cat videos, why should you care if the NSA or anyone else is snooping?

    Ask Rahinah Ibrahim about that. She did nothing wrong and so should have had nothing to fear. She even has a court decision declaring that she never was nor is a threat to the United States, yet she remains outside America’s borders. Her mistaken placement on the no-fly list plunged her head first into a nightmarish world that would have been all too recognizable to Franz Kafka. It is a world run by people willing to ignore reality to service their bureaucratic imperatives and whose multiplying lists are largely beyond the reach of the law.

    Sad as it may be, the Ibrahim case is a fairly benign example of ordinary Washington practices in the post-9/11 era. Ibrahim is going about her life at peace in Malaysia. Her tangle with the United States seems to have been more a matter of bureaucratic screw-ups than anything else. No one sought to actively destroy her. She was not tortured in a CIA black site, nor left for years in a cage at Guantanamo. Her case is generally seen as, at worst, another ugly stain on the white wall we imagine we are as a nation.

    But the watch lists are there. The tools are in place. And one thing is clear: no one is guarding the guards. You never know whose name just went on a list. Maybe yours?


    [Note to Readers: You can fact-check this one by reviewing the same sources I drew from via links in the piece. Since many of the facts of Ibrahim’s case come from her suit against the Department of Homeland Security, however, I have limited the repetition of that link for ease of reading.  You can find it by clicking here.]





    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • War Against Islamic State to Last 20 More Years

    July 29, 2015 // 8 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen

    odierno

    General Ray Odierno, the Army’s most senior leader as Chief of Staff, told reporters the fight against Islamic State (IS) will last “10 to 20 years.”

    That means if we take the General at his word, some of the American soldiers who will be fighting IS two decades from now haven’t even been born yet.


    Just a Bit Longer Than Expected

    “In my mind, ISIS is a ten to twenty year problem, it’s not a two year problem,” Odierno said. “Now, I don’t know what level it will be a problem, but it’s a long term problem.” Odierno is pictured above, when he was the commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq, a war which he did not help to win and a war which birthed IS right under America’s nose.

    “The Obama administration has said ‘three to five’ years. I think in order to defeat IS, it’s going to take longer than that,” Odierno said. “This movement is growing right now, and so I think it’s going to take us a bit longer than we originally thought.”

    Apparently in Odierno’s world, “a bit longer” can mean 15 additional years of conflict.


    But Maybe, Sort Of, Possibly, Someone Else will Fight IS for Us

    But don’t worry, the Army isn’t going to win the fight against IS any more than it won the fight in Iraq, or Afghanistan. See, it is not really their job. Odierno again:

    “To defeat IS is not just a military issue. It is an economic issue. It is a diplomatic issue. It is an issue of moderate versus extremists and it is about also, potentially, having the capability to root them out of the places they now hold in Iraq and Syria. Others should do this. I believe the nations in the Middle East need to solve this problem. We should be helping them to solve this problem.”

    Apparently word on how Odierno and the United States are not going to win the war has not yet filtered down to the nations of the Middle East.

    About a year ago, the U.S. formed a make-believe coalition of 62 nations to fight IS. Where are they all now? The U.S. conducts 85 percent of all air strikes against IS, with most of the rest handled by western allies like Canada, France and the UK. None of the Arab ground troops expected ever showed up.

    So far the only two Middle Eastern entities robustly fighting IS are Shiite militias under the control of Iran, and Iran. Neither is particularly interested in American-style goals; their focus is on eliminating a Sunni armed presence in Iraq, including IS, to secure that country as a client state for Tehran. One of those “with friends like these, who needs enemies?” types of situation.

    There have been even fewer takers for the American request to fight IS in Syria. Or in Yemen, Libya and everywhere else IS is making inroads in the wake of clumsy American policy.

    I’ll check back in on the situation after another two decades or so has passed, and update this article.




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Willful Ignorance and the Legacy of the ‘Comfort Women’ (慰安婦) in Japan

    July 28, 2015 // 3 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Hooper's War

    comfort-women-5


    Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament in January 2015 he was “stunned” at the content of an American high school history textbook. Japan’s Foreign Ministry complained to the book’sauthor. A group of 19 Japanese historians, lead by a professor from Ivy League-equivalent Nihon University is sending “corrections” to the publisher.

    The topic of contention: Japan’s World War II system of sex slavery, the so-called “comfort women,” (慰安婦; ianfu in Japanese) women and girls kidnapped from conquered Asia to serve as sex slaves to the Japanese Imperial Army. Japanese historians downplay or deny their existence. Japan’s Asian neighbors know the truth, and struggle against the revisionist history.

    Germany, Japan and the Legacy of WWII

    Unlike Germany, which has reconciled with its World War II past, paid reparations to its victims and worked to achieve modern relationships with its neighbors, Japan has more than passively chosen to not acknowledge its past. Japan seeks to actively deny the existence of well-documented historical events it committed, even to the detriment of current relations with important neighboring nations. Yet while Holocaust deniers in Germany are seen as little more than crackpots, comfort women deniers occupy positions at the most senior levels of government.

    The majority of Japan’s victims were kidnapped from occupied Korea. Known in Japanese as ianfu, and in Korean as wianbu, the number of women enslaved varies considerably, from unrealistic lows in the tens of thousands to high-end estimates close to half a million. While the numbers themselves are a source of ongoing friction between Japan and the victimized countries, in some ways they matter little; atrocity is atrocity, and tragedy tragedy. Pain does not scale, it simply remains. Nonetheless, differences over the number of women involved are representative of the larger issue: Japan simply will not come to terms with what it did.

    The Evidence

    Japan’s official attitudes toward the issue are especially troubling given the preponderance of evidence even within their own archives. Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, stationed during WWII on Borneo, organized a “comfort station.” The young officer’s success in procuring Indonesian women went so well that he was officially commended. The source of this information? Nakasone’s own 1978 autobiography. Imagine a U.S. presidential candidate making similar claims.

    Limited but key testimony from Japanese responsible for the system also exists. The former president of the Sankei newspaper, a major Japanese daily, worked in the accounting division of the Imperial Japanese Army during the war. He was in charge of staffing and opening “comfort stations.” The now-elderly former bureaucrat described his work as “When we procured the girls, we had to look at their endurance, how used up they were, whether they were good or not. We had to calculate the allotted time for commissioned officers, commanding officers, grunts, how many minutes. There was even a prospectus we learned in military accounting school. The term used for the procurement of women was choben, an old military word that referred to gathering food for the horses.”

    But nothing from the Japanese side comes close to comparing to the memories of the surviving women themselves. Here is just one example; as with the Holocaust, there are too many more:

    Soldiers came to my room. The first soldier wasn’t drunk and when he tried to rip my clothes off, I shouted “No!” and he left. The second soldier was drunk. He waved a knife at me and threatened to kill me if I didn’t do what he said. But I didn’t care if I died, and in the end he stabbed me… My clothes were soaked with blood. I was treated in the infirmary for twenty days. I was sent back to my room. A soldier who had just returned from the fighting came in… I had a bandage on my chest. Despite that, the soldier attacked me, and when I wouldn’t do what he said, he seized my wrists and threw me out of the room. My wrists were broken, and they are still very weak. I was kicked by a soldier. It took the skin right off… you could see the bone. When the soldiers came back from the battlefields, as many as 20 men would come to my room from early morning… There was no bedding… underneath was earth. We cried in the dark “Mummy, it hurts!

    Approximately three quarters of comfort women died, and most survivors were left infertile due to sexual trauma or sexually transmitted diseases. Beatings and physical torture, beyond the daily gang rapes, were common.



    Current Efforts in Japan to Deny the Issue

    Current Prime Minister Abe’s administration denies Japan ran a system of human trafficking and sex slavery, implying that comfort women were simply camp-following prostitutes. His latest move came at the end of October 2014 when his party appointed Nakasone’s son to chair a commission to “consider concrete measures to restore Japan’s honor with regard to the comfort women issue.”

    Abe’s goal is to dilute the 1993 Kono Statement, named for Japan’s chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yohei Kono. Though perhaps unnecessarily vague in the original language text, the statement was understood in Asia as about the closest that was ever going to emerge from the Japanese government to an apology for the sex slave system.

    The current efforts by Abe to deny sex slavery are not his first. During Abe’s first administration, in 2007, his cabinet began undermining the Kono Statement by stating there was no documentary evidence of coercion in the acquisition of women, and that the Statement was not binding government policy.



    Sex Slaves and Foreign Relations

    The Japanese government seems unconcerned in the extreme with how its views on WWII sex slavery affect its Asian neighbors. The issue remains a block to better relations with Korea and China especially; some of Japan’s other neighbors who do not occupy such strong economic positions have had to ameliorate their criticism for practical reasons, though the underlying anger remains.

    The role of the United States remains troubling to many. Unlike in Germany, where the U.S.-led Nuremberg Trials pressed Nazi war crimes into the world’s media and served as a starting point for Germany’s own healing, war crime trials in post-war Japan were brief, focused in large part on responsibility for the decision to go to war in the first place, and purposefully excluded the Emperor. Imagine if Hitler had lived and if the U.S. chose not to bring him to trial.

    More recent support in the United States is spotty. The House of Representatives, in 2007, passed a non-binding resolution asking the Japanese government to redress the situation and to teach the actual historical facts in its schools. In 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the use of the euphemism “comfort women” and stated the victims should be referred to as “enforced sex slaves.”

    However, the United States otherwise has remained largely silent on the issue, preferring to say the disagreements over the history of the sex slaves, like those over the facts of the Rape of Nanjing and the ownership of several small islands in the region that continue to roil East Asian relations, need to be sorted out by the parties involved. Many see this as a weak way out, and, given America’s influence over Japan, almost a tacit acceptance of Japan’s history as unimportant.


    How many Japanese citizens agree with their government’s version of WWII history is difficult to pin down. However, given the election successes of those politicians pandering to the extreme revisionist views of events, one can sadly surmise the percentage is not small. Willful ignorance in the face of overwhelming evidence remains the most recent wounds committed against the “comfort women” by Japan.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Hillary Clinton Emails Said to Contain Classified Data

    July 27, 2015 // 12 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: 2016, Embassy/State

    hillary clinton

    Here’s the story behind the drive by the Inspector General of the State Department and the Intelligence Community Inspector General for the Justice Department open a full investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account while she held the position of secretary of state.


    Government investigators discovered classified information on the private email account that Hillary used while secretary of state, stating “unequivocally” that those secrets never should have been stored outside of secure systems.

    The inspectors general of the State Department and the nation’s intelligence agencies said the information they found was classified when it was sent and remains so now. Information is considered classified if its disclosure would likely harm national security, and such information can be sent or stored only on computer networks with special safeguards. The inspectors have not revealed which of Clinton’s emails contained classified data, though the State Department has redacted portions of email it has released, and the FBI demanded data in some emails pertaining to the security situation in Libya be withheld.

    Clinton has said for months that she kept no classified information on the private server that she set up. Her campaign said Friday that any government secrets found on the server had been classified after the fact.


    There are multiple holes in Clinton’s latest set of excuses.


    To begin, she has stated there was nothing classified on her server. It appears now there was. The source is not a partisan attack dog, but the State Department’s own inspector general and the intelligence community. She violated national security, which require cleared individuals, such as Hillary, to protect sensitive information. Exposing classified data is a crime; that is what Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden are accused of doing. It does not matter if the info can be proven to have reached the media or an adversary, the crime is the exposure itself, not the results.

    A person in Hillary’s position, and certainly with her claimed experience in government, should know what is and is not classified, sensitive or otherwise needs to be protected. In my own 24 years with the State Department, I saw that almost everything that reached the secretary’s office needed to be classified, either because of the contents itself, or because it was part of the tiny fraction of information that bubbled up that high. Of all the issues in the world, an adversary knowing what the secretary was personally focused on, or how the data was being presented to her, was valuable in its own right.

    Some/much of the information Hillary was dealing with originated within her inner circle, particularly email sent between her and her closest advisors that helped shape her decisions. It is the originating person that is charged inside State with assigning a classification. If Hillary’s staff did not assign a classification, well, then one was not technically included with the data. But that’s a fudge; it is the data itself that matters, with or without a label, and as part of the responsibility for holding a clearance a person is expected to make judgements to protect information. Hillary knew how sensitive the information was at times. It is a veneer of deniability.

    There have also been multiple public cases where the government has taken action against individuals because they “should have known unclassified” data “should have been classified” and thus protected. Google up those of TSA’s Robert MacLean, NSA’s Thomas Drake and, sadly, my own. All of us were punished, fired or threatened with jail over the alleged release of unclassified data that the government deemed ex post facto should have been considered classified. This is not speculation, it is precedent.

    Criminal? Maybe. Irresponsible? Likely. Not very presidential? Certainly.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Clintons Earned $30 million in Past 15 Months

    July 25, 2015 // 12 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: 2016



    Hillary and Bill earned $30 million since January 2014, mostly for giving paid speeches, according to financial disclosure forms filed on Friday.

    Around $25 million of the total came from giving speeches, while Hillary Clinton earned around $5 million from her book. “The Clintons’ income puts them at the upper end of the top 0.1 percent of earners in the U.S. population,” notes Reuters.

    Show Me the Money

    Bill’s standard speech fee is $250,000, compared to $235,000 for Hillary. Bill all-time highest fee is $500,000 for one speech, while Hillary Clinton’s top-earning speech brought in $350,000.

    This is all on top of the funding for offices, travel expenses and whatever’s came to the Clinton’s out of the generous donations and friendly spending habits of the charity Clinton Global Initiative.

    It all shows how just how far the couple has come since 2001, when they left the White House and Hillary Clinton described the family as being “dead broke.” Since leaving the White House, the Clintons have earned at least $130 million in speaking fees.



    Jealous Much?

    But so what, right? This is America; people should get paid for speeches they give, and hey, if someone is willing to pay you half a million dollars for a one hour talk, why shouldn’t you accept that? There’s nothing illegal here, nothing criminal, and anyone who tries to paint all this money as anything wrong is just reciting the Repub attack points. Hah, maybe the Republicans are just jealous. Who the hell is gonna pay Ted Cruz even bus fare to speak?

    And that of course is the point. No one will pay Ted Cruz much, if anything, to speak, because Ted Cruz is a lousy investment. Hillary has a very good chance of being president in 18 months. And that of course is the point.

    I’ve heard Bill speak in person, and seen plenty of Hillary speeches on video. They talk pretty, good grammar and all. But like most politicians, they tend not to say much of significance. Nothing remotely controversial, just “global this” and “empower technology for future that.” Could it thus be that the real reason organizations are willing to pay out fantastic fees for that is because they are trying to buy off the next president, who, along with her spouse, seems to have the appetite of a hungry hyena to suck up as much money as she can?

    Who Pays?

    Who pays Hillary to speak? Since leaving the State Department, Clinton has given paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, Fidelity, the Carlyle Group, the National Association of Realtors and various pharmaceutical companies. All of these organizations have much business in front of the federal government at any time, and all depend heavily on lobbying to ensure they are regulated (or not) in accordance with their business interests.

    Anybody who tries to tell you these groups are paying out large amounts of money simply to hear what Hillary has to say today is selling snake oil. The groups are buying access and paying forward for favors and favorable consideration.

    And So What?

    Oh, right, but everybody does it. No, they don’t. The Clintons are in it deep. Besides, the everybody does it argument didn’t work when your Mom caught you smoking in 8th grade, and it certainly is too trite to invoke when something as important as the last shreds of integrity in the presidency of the United States is on the line.

    Then again, Americans, you get what you pay for.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • NSA Summer Camps Look to Recruit Them When They’re Young

    July 24, 2015 // 10 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: NSA, Post-Constitution America

    nsa summer camp

    Get to them while they’re young, and you’ll have them for life. Who said that? Was it Walt Disney? Willy Wonka? The director of the Hitler Youth?

    Maybe all of them, but it also applies to the NSA. Long a fan of generosity on undergrad campuses, handing out scholarships, grants and internships around the math and foreign language departments, the NSA is now reaching out to become the pedos of the national security state by sponsoring summer spying camps for kids.

    The New York Times tells us about a new National Security Agency cybersecurity program that reaches down into the ranks of American high school and middle school students to teach them the fine art of cracking encrypted passwords. “We basically tried a dictionary attack,” said one patriotic youth as he typed a new command into “John The Ripper,” a software tool that helps test and break passwords. “Now we’re trying a brute-force attack.”

    “Now, I don’t want anybody getting in trouble now that you know how to use this puppy,” one of the camp’s instructors, warned. Of course not. It’s all legal, right?

    Thanks to the NSA, 1,400 youths are attending 43 free overnight and day camps across the country as this summer the agency is making sure that middle- and high-school-age students are learning how to hack, crack and “defend” in cyberspace. The broader goal of GenCyber, as the summer camp programs are called, is to catch the attention of potential cybersecurity recruits and seed interest in an exploding field. No doubt generating a little positive mindspace among the impressionable couldn’t hurt, either, right?

    The NSA’s goal is to grow the program to 200 camps in all 50 states by 2020.

    And each camp is different, given the global reach of the NSA. At California State San Bernardino, the NSA camp open only to local Girl Scouts, and campers will build, program and fly drones. Campers at Norwich University in Vermont will put together their own computers. At Marymount University, visits to nearby NSA HQ break up classroom time. A camp run right on the NSA campus in Maryland will offer soccer, cooking, basketball, recycled art, painting, hockey, drama, board games and jewelry making in addition to hacking classes. At UC Berkeley, many of the students claim they don’t know who Edward Snowden, but they’ll learn about him soon enough — from the NSA — since current events are part of the curriculum.

    But it’s cool. “We’re not trying to make these camps something to make people pro-NSA or to try to make ourselves look good,” NSA’s director of the camps said. “I think we’ll look good naturally just because we’re doing something that I think will benefit a lot of students and eventually the country as a whole.”




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Wesley Clark Calls for Internment Camps for ‘Radicalized’ Americans

    July 23, 2015 // 8 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Police State, Post-Constitution America

    General-Wesley-Clark

    Retired general and former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark on Friday called for World War II-style internment camps to be revived for “disloyal Americans.”


    In an interview on MSNBC in the wake of the mass shooting in Chattanooga, Clark said that during World War II, “if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war.”

    (During WWII, the United States detained over 11,000 ethnic Germans in the U.S. The government examined the cases under the Alien and Sedition Acts individually in a form of limited due process, and detained relatively few in internment camps. However, over 120,000 Japanese-Americans were sent off to camps without any form of due process. Most Americans consider these actions along the most shameful abuse of government power and civil rights since the abolition of slavery. The United States continues to pay reparations to those interned.)

    Clark called for a revival of internment camps to help combat Muslim extremism, saying, “If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine. It’s their right and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.”

    (It is unclear what “conflict” Clark is referring to, but we can assume it is the undeclared war on an idea, terrorism. Terrorism has existed roughly since the beginning of civilization, so the duration of any conflict against it seems open-ended.)

    Clark’s proposal appears to be based on the concept of targeting people for government scrutiny who are not “radicalized,” whatever that means, but who the government, or perhaps just Clark by himself, decides may become radicalized at some unspecified future date.

    “We have got to identify the people who are most likely to be radicalized. We’ve got to cut this off at the beginning,” Clark said. “I do think on a national policy level we need to look at what self-radicalization means because we are at war with this group of terrorists.”

    For those keeping score, Clark’s proposal would violate, at a minimum, the rights to free speech, due process and habeas corpus, and cruel and unusual punishment, all the while setting a precedent for “thought crime” in the United States.

    Here’s the interview. Please note how the MSNBC drone interviewer does not challenge Clark in any way:




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Meet You in Atlantic City: An Economic Fable

    July 21, 2015 // 4 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: #99Percent


    As the New Economy starts to look more and more like the Depression Economy of the 1930’s, the divide between rich and poor clearer as businesses fade and fail, Atlantic City provides a layers of urban archaeology pointing where we’ve been and maybe where we’re going.

    We All Love Lucy

    Driving in on the older roads, there’s Lucy the Elephant. Not a real elephant of course, Lucy is instead a freakish wood and tin six story hollow statue. First built in 1881 to add value to some Jersey swampland, Lucy has been reincarnated several times after fire, neglect and storm damage. Along the way, she was used a tavern, a hotel, and for most of her life, simply an “attraction.” As owning a car, and the family driving vacations that accompanied ownership, became egalitarian rights in the 1950’s and 60’s, all manner of tacky attractions popped up along America’s roads: cement dinosaurs, teepee-shaped motels, museums of freaks, and spectacles such as the world’s largest ball of twine.

    Lucy—and Atlantic City—set the trend well into the early 1970’s. Between 1947 and 1973 actual incomes in the U.S. rose at the same level for everyone, more or less evenly spread across the societal spectrum. In 1932 Detroit produced 1.4 million cars, in 1950 it rose to eight million, then peaked at twelve million in 1973. America was a developing nation, in the best sense of that word. Yet as the U.S. economy changed, money began to flow out of the working class pockets that fed Lucy. From 1973 to 1993 the top one percent of Americans saw income grow eighty percent, and by 1989 the one percent owned forty percent of U.S. wealth. Atlantic City hurt. The famous Boardwalk (remember Monopoly? The street names are all from Atlantic City) became a crime scene, too dangerous for casual tourists, and drugs took over for tourism. It wasn’t different than the rest of America, just more intense.

    Atlantic City Rolls the Dice on Legalized Gambling

    Yet the first time I visited Atlantic City, some thirty years ago, things had again started to change. It was in the midst of a hyper national economy that gambling was legalized, and money poured into the area. The Boardwalk sprouted casinos and restaurants, and local business owners scrambled to find workers even as they considered early retirement based on the soaring value of the land they had held for generations. Everyone and everything felt alive, and billboards boasted of “rebirth.”

    Thirty Years Later, Does the Bet Pay Off?

    Thirty years later, a visit to Atlantic City once again reminds that life there isn’t any different than the rest of America, just more intense. On a twenty-story hotel tower, you can read the words “Hilton” in dirt shadow where the sign was removed as the place slammed shut. Trump Plaza, nothing if not a monument to excess and hubris from someone once admired as a business magician and pathetically now a presidential candidate, even before it closed was much of a caricature of elegance as the man himself. When I stayed there, the pillows smelled of sweat, the corner of doors were chipped, many areas needed paint and most of the bars and restaurants were as lonely as the former Greyhound bus terminal a few blocks away. People who appeared homeless harmlessly wandered in and out of the casino, itself tawdy and too dimly lit to inspire fun. It was like the air had been let out of the place.

    Outside along the Boardwalk, the famous rolling chairs are pushed by recent immigrants and not-so-clean older denizens of the City. Lots of people still took rides, but it seemed that paying the workers to push you while you sat felt cheap and sad, just a step aside of pushing dollars into the g-strings of the strippers in clubs just off the Boardwalk. It felt too much like buying and discarding someone’s self respect to be considered fun. The swanky mall built on one of the old amusement piers had more shuttered than open stores. The family restaurant I worked in thirty years ago is now a tiny dollar store run by a man angry that I was just looking for old times’ sake. Plenty of “We Buy Gold” and pawn shops nearby, however. Though touted as a nouveau cuisine destination in ads, the only lines I saw were for people challenging the economics of the $7.98 all-you-can-eat buffet.

    Where to Lucy?

    There are always things that hint at optimism. Atlantic City survived Hurricane Sandy with little damage. The Hard Rock was doing good business with three dollar Miller Lite’s. Caesar’s had set up a glitzy room for Asian gamblers, complete with Chinese-speaking dealers and table games from Macau. Everyone turned from the old guys pushing the rolling chairs to see where the young guy running across the hot sand carrying two ice creams cones was headed.

    The average American worker never earned as much again as in the peak year of 1973. Poverty rates also reached a historic low in 1973 and have risen steadily thereafter. One out of five American kids now lives in a household that cannot feed itself. Aside from it all, Lucy the Elephant still stands her post, unblinking and silent. She looks out over the Boardwalk, maybe America itself, and wonders where we are all headed.







    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Kidneys For Sale in Kurdish Camps: Iraq’s Displaced Selling Body Parts For Food?

    July 20, 2015 // 1 Comment

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Iraq, Military

    kidney



    I write and speak about Iraq frequently, and strongly oppose U.S. military (re-)intervention there. People often respond by saying “But we have to do something, shouldn’t we do something?”

    I now have a good answer: stop this. The flood of internally displaced people into Iraqi Kurdistan is increasing human trafficking and illegal organ sales.

    “The increase in the number of displaced people in the Iraqi Kurdish region is the main reason why the amount of human trafficking and trafficking of human organs is increasing,” Tafkah Omar, who heads the legal department of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Human Rights Commission, told NIQASH. “The displaced people here are marginalized and they may be more willing to accept the fact that they could sell their own organs, or their relatives’ organs, in order to cover costs of their basic needs,” she noted, before adding that it was also important to consider all forms of human trafficking brought on by the ongoing conflicts in the area, including forced prostitution and child labor.

    “There are fears that gangs might take more advantage of displaced people here,” she said. “The security situation is such that it is still very difficult to prevent human trafficking of all kinds.”

    The sale of a kidney requires middlemen, who must both know a seller and a buyer. It is thought that middlemen for the buyers travel from Baghdad and contact middle men for the sellers in Iraqi Kurdistan. The sellers will typically receive around US$4,100 for a kidney. The middleman then sells the kidney for about $20,000 or more.

    “Over the last couple of months the police haven’t managed to arrest anyone on these kinds of charges,” stated an activist.

    “When we don’t have any clear evidence, we cannot do anything about the organ sales,” a police spokesperson responded. “It is highly likely that these middlemen have found alternative ways of doing business.”


    (Image is representative and is not from Iraq)



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Fighting Pirates is Cool

    July 18, 2015 // 2 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Military

    pirates-of-the-caribbean

    So among the many innovations of the War on Terror and the 21st century is a return to the fun of the 19th century when our mariners had to fight pirates.

    You know the Marine Hymn, the line “…to the shores of Tripoli”? That referred to some of the earliest fights the Marines got into, against pirates in the Mediterranean, protecting a young America’s commerce abroad.

    The endless chaos of failed states that has accompanied the War on Terror has sent pirates back out on to the open seas, particularly near the Horn of Africa, off the Somali coast. We all remember the movie Captain Phillips, right? Somali pirates in small boats rush cargo ships and oil tankers, hoping to scramble aboard and take hostages, ransoming the ship back to its owner while plundering the cargo.

    Commercial shipping companies have thus taken to hiring mercenaries, er, security contractors, typically ex-military from the U.S., UK, South Africa and the like, to protect their vessels. Have a look at a typical workday for them in the video. Note the image of the side of the ship around 0:34; there are rolls of barbed wire attached to the hull to prevent boarders from seizing the doubloons. Of course, that would have made Captain Phillips about a three minute movie.





    Here’s something else interesting.





    Apparently due to some countries’ laws, ships cannot bring weapons into port. So, given that the shipping business is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and rifles are worth a few hundred, the mercs often toss their weapons overboard. It is not clear how they acquire new ones for the trip home, but it seems to be a system that works for them. Of course the weapons could be stashed in some remote part of these huge ships and the tossing scene might be just for show…

    Avast mateys, here there be pirates! Arghhhhhhhhhh!



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Jihadist 17-Year-Old Faces Prison for Tweets about Encryption and Bitcoin

    July 17, 2015 // 2 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Police State, Post-Constitution America

    ISIS-Using-Bitcoin

    In the next release of statistics from the FBI and DHS about how many terrorist plot they have foiled, remember this one is included.

    A 17-year-old Virginia teen, Ali Shukri Amin, faces up to 15 years in prison for contributing to Coin Brief and for Tweets about encryption and Bitcoin. He recently pleaded guilty to providing material support to Islamic State for all that. Amin was a high school honors student in suburban Virginia until his arrest.

    Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said the youth’s guilty plea “demonstrates that those who use social media as a tool to provide support and resources to ISIL will be identified and prosecuted with no less vigilance than those who travel to take up arms with ISIL.”

    According to the defendant’s signed “Admission of Facts,”, Amin joined Twitter last June and acquired some 4,000 followers and tweeted about 7,000 times.


    His Crimes

    Here’s what, according to Amin’s court documents, landed him in prison:

    — An article he wrote explained what Bitcoins were, how the Bitcoin system worked and suggested using a new Bitcoin wallet, which keeps the user of Bitcoins anonymous. The article included statements on how to set up an anonymous donations system to send money, using Bitcoin, to the mujahedeen.

    — Amin tweeted that IS needed an official website and that IS should stop releasing propaganda “in the wild” and instead should consider using JustPaste.it.

    — Also also Tweeted this link about Bitcoin.

    — According to the government, Amin, “Through various tweets, provided information on how to prevent a website from being taken down, by adding security defenses, and he solicited others via Twitter to assist on the development of the website.”

    — On his blog, Amin “authored a series of highly technical articles targeted at aspiring jihadists and ISIL supporters detailing the use of security measures in online communications to include the use of encryption and anonymity software, tools and techniques, as well as the use of the virtual currency Bitcoin as a means to anonymously fund ISIL.”

    Amin, who apparently never left his suburban home, is also accused of “radicalizing” an 18-year-old Virginia youth who later traveled to Syria. Amin admitted that he helped the boy get a mobile phone, assisted him with travel, gave him a ride to the airport in his parents’ car and pointed him generally to where he would find IS supporters in Turkey.


    Let’s Be Afraid

    Critical to understanding how terrifying this arrest and prosecution are is understanding that Amin is going to jail not for what he wrote, but to whom he wrote to and, apparently, what he was thinking when he wrote it.

    In other words, information, some of it amazingly technical, is splattered all over the web about Bitcoin, security, encryption and the other topics the high school kid wrote about. The processes are the same whether the money is going to your cool Kickstarter indie band project, or to Islamic State. Amin did not add anything special to the huge pile of info out there.

    Instead, he was busted because he Tweeted and blogged openly in the direction of Islamic State. He was thinking nice thoughts about IS while doing it. There is no indication that IS asked him to do this, or responded to him, or even acted on any information he posted.

    It is worth noting that IS, like you, could Google “Bitcoin” or any other of Amin’s subjects and read as much material as they wished. In such a case, would those websites also have some culpability toward supporting terrorism?

    The limited assistance to the other boy in traveling notwithstanding, Amin seems to be headed to Federal prison for a thought crime tied up in violations of his First Amendment rights.

    Keep that in mind before you blog, Tweet, update your Facebook or click on some of the links above, because the Feds are watching.




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • New Law Says Web Sites Would Have to Inform Law Enforcement about Readers’ ‘Terrorist Activity’

    July 16, 2015 // 14 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Police State

    1984


    Social media sites such as Twitter and YouTube would be required to report “terrorist” videos and other content posted by users to federal authorities under legislation approved this past week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.


    The measure, contained in the 2016 intelligence authorization, still has to be voted on by the full Senate. The measure applies to “electronic communication service providers,” which includes e-mail services such as Google and Yahoo. “Posted content” would likely also apply to readers’ comments, and in theory to authors’ postings such as this one.

    Companies such as Twitter have recently stepped up efforts to remove terrorist content in response to growing concerns that they have not done enough to stem whatever the government deems propaganda. Twitter removed 10,000 accounts over a two-day period in April. Officials want more. “In our discussions with parts of the executive branch, they said there have been cases where there have been posts of one sort or another taken down” that might have been useful to know about, a Senate aide said.

    The snitch bill is modeled after a federal law — the 2008 Protect Our Children Act — that requires online firms to report images of child pornography and to provide information identifying who uploaded the images to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The center then forwards the information to the FBI. Of course actual images of child porn are pretty straightforward to notice, exploit innocents and involve no legitimate protected speech.

    But otherwise, sure, it’s the same thing. Statement: I Like Terrorism = Child Rape Images.

    Industry officials privately called the new law a bad idea only because it sounds like an expensive hassle for them. “Asking Internet companies to proactively monitor people’s posts and messages would be the same thing as asking your telephone company to monitor and log all your phone calls, text messages, all your Internet browsing, all the sites you visit,” said one official.

    Wait, isn’t that what we’ve been told the NSA has been doing to us since 9/11?

    Still, national security experts who will likely personally profit from the measure say it makes sense. “In a core set of cases, when companies are made aware of terrorist content, there is real value to security, and potentially even to the companies’ reputation,” said Michael Leiter, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, now an executive vice president with Leidos, a national security contractor. “Rules like this always implicate complex First Amendment and corporate interests. But ultimately this is a higher-tech version of ‘See something, say something.’”

    But what about those nasty First Amendment issues?

    “The intelligence bill would turn communications service providers into the speech police, while providing them little guidance about what speech they must report to the police,” said Gregory Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “The natural tendency will be to err on the side of reporting anything that might be characterized as ‘terrorist activity’ even if it is not. And their duty to report will chill speech on the Internet that relates to terrorism.”


    America: A nation of snitches, watching each other, reporting whatever thing we think is suspicious or terrorism. To The Authorities. But it’s for our own good, right Citizens? I think I saw a Twilight Zone like that. No, wait, it was the McCarthy Era, sorry.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • My Interview on Afghan-Taliban Talks: ‘Terrorists or not, labels less important than stopping war’

    July 15, 2015 // 3 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iraq

    reagan

    I had a chance to sit down with RT.com to talk about the peace talks between Afghan officials and the Taliban that are expected to start again after Ramadan ends. The negotiations are taking place after more than a decade of war. Here’s what we said.

    RT: Why is the Afghan government negotiating with Taliban terrorists in the first place?

    PVB:As a former diplomat, I think it’s critical people do talk. Look, this war has gone on for fourteen years between the US, the Taliban, the Pakistanis, the Afghans – the whole gang. There has got to be a way to bring it to a conclusion, and since the US has failed militarily to bring it to a conclusion, really the only answer now is some form of negotiation. Terrorist or not, the labels are less important than the idea of stopping this war.

    RT: The talks in Pakistan were said to have been very constructive, with negotiators reportedly even hugging each other afterwards. Can this diplomacy really bring peace to Afghanistan?

    PVB: I think the word “peace” is a little ambitious at this point of time. I prefer the word “resolution”. We are going to have a hard time saying this is a war that was won, or a war that settled something. But I think what we need now is to speak of resolution, a way for the US to disengage, a way for the Afghan government and the Afghans in the Taliban to talk to one another and try to work something out that will benefit the Afghan people.

    RT: US-led occupation forces ran the show in Afghanistan for 13 years. Were they even trying to make peace with the Taliban?

    PVB: It’s a good question and one I think people like you and people like me have been asking for all these years. We’re going to have to take a deep breath and say that it’s good that the negotiations have started, even though history would judge poorly the fact that it took all these years and all these deaths to get us to this point.

    RT: What about a military solution here? Has the US finally understood it’s not going to work?

    PVB: It took Washington a good part of those years to realize there is no military solution, but I’m sad to say it took Washington even more time to understand that it was going to have to negotiate with the people who are on the battlefield. I think that mindset of having to negotiate with “the enemy” was really a harder victory to achieve in Washington than the idea that the military solution wasn’t going to work.

    RT: Could talks with the militants have started sooner?

    PVB: Absolutely. They could have started much sooner, they could have started back in 2001. The US initial push into Afghanistan was actually very successful. The Taliban was driven out of all the major cities, they were driven up into the mountains, into the caves, into hiding and at that point of time I think there was in fact a negotiated political solution that might have avoided all the years of war. There were points no doubt along the way when some type of negotiations may have been possible. That’s all water under the bridge; it’s blood on everyone’s hands but again we are going to take a deep breath and say “Thank goodness, we finally got to the point where we are sitting down at a table rather than facing off across the battlefield.”

    RT: There’s also the threat posed by Islamic State in the region. There are reports that the group’s leader for Afghanistan and Pakistan has been killed in a US drone strike. The terrorist organization has said it wants to expand in the area. Who’s there to stop them?

    PVB: Islamic State has something to do with it, but perhaps in a different way. Certainly no one wants to see IS entering the conflict in Afghanistan. More people with more guns are not going to make anything better. But I suspect part of the motivation is to allow the US to focus more on IS in Iraq, in Syria and other places. The Afghan war is over; everyone knows that, it’s a matter of figuring out the right way to bring America’s role to some form of resolution.

    RT: Could IS be possibly welcomed in Afghanistan?

    PVB: IS has the potential to establish a foothold there. Keep in mind Afghanistan shares a huge border with Pakistan, so infiltration is not going to be physically a very difficult thing, and the Taliban have often welcomed outside help in their struggle. But at the end of the day I don’t think the Taliban have much interest in sharing power with IS, I don’t think the Taliban would have much tolerance for IS setting up any kind of permanent shelter there and I don’t think the Taliban at this point see themselves wanting to give away their successes against the US by giving America yet another reason to kick the war in Afghanistan up a notch. I suspect IS’s welcome in Afghanistan would be relatively short.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Casinos Fail Old Industrial Towns

    July 14, 2015 // 5 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Economy, Minimum Wage

    sands casino


    It wasn’t just a business, it was a way of life– what residents of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania referred to simply as “The Steel”– a mill once America’s second largest steel producer with 31,500 souls working in a single facility.


    The Mill

    The mill made the steel for the Empire State building and the Golden Gate Bridge, and for WWII warships. After cheap imports flooded the United States in the 1980s, the Bethlehem Steel facility closed, leaving behind a mile-long scar of rusted out buildings people call the brownfields, along the Lehigh River. Allentown, Billy Joel’s bitter saga of industrial decline, name-checked the town.


    The Promise of Legalized Gambling

    So as soon as Pennsylvania legalized casinos in 2004, Bethlehem scrambled for one of the first, and won. Symbolically, Las Vegas’ Sands corporation would build right on top of the old mill. Everyone hoped the casino would replace a decent portion of the jobs lost when The Steel left. But by 2014, there were only 2,200 positions at the casino, plus 700 at leased businesses inside. Was a casino really the answer?

    Even those new jobs didn’t come for free. Roads, some $10 million worth, had to be built or repaired to make it easier for out-of-towners (New York is only 75 miles away) to reach the casino. The city added to its police force. Since the casino was located outside the downtown business district, the city paid for a shuttle bus to try and draw players to their shops. But the casino had its own retail mall competing with anything local. No one should “plan on a casino to bring about urban renewal,” said a Wynn Casinos property manager in nearby Philadelphia, “because that’s not what casinos do.”


    The House Always Wins

    Still, there was money to be made in Bethlehem. Casino profits, of course, were repatriated to the owners in Las Vegas. Pennsylvania requires casinos to pay a 55 percent tax on revenues, but only four percent of that goes to the host community. For Bethlehem in 2013, that totaled $9.5 million, not game-changing money for an area so economically devastated for so long. Baltimore, an early adopter of casino gambling as an economic resurrection strategy, has seen similar results. In Atlantic City, the first major destination outside Las Vegas to feature legalized gambling, four major casinos closed in the past year.

    Bringing in a casino is about jobs and money. Jobs created statewide in Pennsylvania via gaming do not even equal the number lost in Bethlehem alone. As of 2013, Pennsylvania casinos directly employed only 17,768 people, leaving significant questions about the role of gaming in lifting America’s devastated rust belt towns out of unemployment-driven malaise.

    As for money, a report notes that after some initial successes, revenues in Pennsylvania from gaming declined by 2013. Statewide, casinos did contribute about $81 million in taxes last year. However, it is unclear how much of the revenue behind those taxes came from local residents, what might be called churning rather than creation, a back-door tax on those ill-prepared to lose money at the slots (affluent people visit casinos less often than poorer people do.) One group of frequent visitors who have found a way to beat the house come from New York’s Korean community; they sell the promotional meal vouchers from the casino on the black market.

    Competition is a serious problem, as new casinos open in surrounding states. For example, New Jersey is considering a casino at the Meadowlands, only 30 minutes outside New York City, which will pull many away from Bethlehem’s new bright lights. Pennsylvania is also among the states with the highest casino tax rate in the nation, raising further the question of market cannibalization should gaming corporations seek out lower rates in adjoining states. Casino revenues nationwide have not recovered their 2007 peaks, and Moody’s projects a drop through 2015, cutting industry earnings by as much as 7.5 percent.


    Don’t Gamble if You Can’t Afford to Lose

    Only a generation ago, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania had a steel mill employing tens of thousands of people at good wages. Including benefits, an average union steelworker made $26.12 per hour then, the equivalent of $40.66 today. It was enough to create one of the most powerful economies on earth, supported by a robust middle class driving demand for housing, cars, everything. They could afford to gamble a bit on yearly vacations, too.

    The typical casino worker today in Bethlehem makes $10-12 an hour. Many are part-time. They labor in the shadow of the mill that helped build the Empire State building and the Golden Gate Bridge, a new way of life that may flounder on a bad roll of the dice.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • DS Deedy Update: Shooting in Hawaii Now Headed to Third Trial?

    July 13, 2015 // 5 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    deedy with lawyers


    I didn’t realize that it had been almost two years since we had an update on the Chris Deedy (center in the photo) case, and a lot/not much has transpired. Let’s catch up!

    Recap

    For those new to the story, in 2011 State Department Diplomatic Security Special Agent Christopher Deedy was briefly in Hawaii protecting then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Deedy, off duty, shot and killed a local man, Kollin Elderts. From there it gets complicated; allegations and denials of alcohol involvement, an inconclusive surveillance tape, the question of whether the shooting was in self-defense or not, it goes on, now heading into a fifth year of legal stuff. More background here.


    Two Trials So Far, No Conviction

    Since the shooting there have been two trials.

    Deedy’s first murder trial in the summer of 2013 ended with the jurors deadlocked on a murder charge. Hawaii Judge Ahn found that there was no evidence to support manslaughter and so did not allow the jurors to consider that lesser charge. Ahn then reversed herself in the retrial last summer (2014), allowing the jurors to consider manslaughter as well as other lesser charges, including assault. The jurors returned a not guilty verdict on the murder charge but were deadlocked on manslaughter (manslaughter is “the crime of killing a human being without malice aforethought, or otherwise in circumstances not amounting to murder.”)

    Third Trial to Come?

    Deedy’s lawyers filed motions to block the third trial; the prosecutor in Hawaii wanted it to go through. Judge Ahn rejected the key defense motions and allowed the trial to proceed. Deedy’s attorney instead will present the same motions to dismiss, the ones Ahn has already rejected, to the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

    If the Appeals Court also rejects the motions, a third trial could commence in the fall. If the court grants the motions, the Deedy criminal case is over and he is a free man.

    I could not locate any information on the status of a civil suit by Kollin Elderts’ family.

    Throughout the four+ years since the shooting, Deedy has been out on bail, still employed by the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Since a condition of his bail is that he cannot carry a firearm, he has been assigned to some sort of unspecified desk duty on full salary.


    Last Words… For Now

    The Deputy City Prosecutor Janice Futa argued in favor of a third trial. “Justice demands for Kollin Elderts and his family that we pursue this case,” she said.

    Deedy’s lawyer said the state has had enough chances. “This is not about justice. This about trying to convict Agent Deedy of something.”



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Homeless Guy’s Sign, Four Blocks from Koch Brothers’ Apartment

    July 11, 2015 // 7 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: #99Percent

    2014-10-20 20.45.22

    There’s a homeless man I see from time to time near where I live. He sometimes begs for money. Sometimes people give him food, sometimes he forages in the trash. There’s his sign, written on the lid of an old cooler.

    In America’s richest city, four blocks from where the Koch Brothers live, in a nation that has allocated $1.57 trillion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including $92.3 billion in fiscal year 2014, we don’t have much to offer this guy.

    There are about 3,357 unsheltered people living on New York’s streets, like the guy who wrote the sign shown here, a six percent rise from 2013 to 2014. There are luckier ones. New York has 53,615 people who live in homeless shelters.

    At the same time, overall property values for those who have places to live rose 10.4 percent across New York. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of New Yorkers with a net-worth of over $30 million rose higher than any other city in the world besides Singapore and Hong Kong,

    We are willing to send humanitarian aid to Iraq and Syria, but not to our homeless in America. There’s your story for today.




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • George W. Bush Charged $100K for Speech at Wounded Veterans Event

    July 10, 2015 // 7 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Iraq, Military

    George Bush Mission Accomplished

    Talk about creating your own job opportunities!

    Former president George W. not only started a bunch of wars that produced a bunch of wounded veterans, he pulled in mucho dinero making a speech for a wounded vets’ charity group. Hey, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade! (Unless you lost both hands in Iraq or something like former Marine Eddie Wright, below, and can’t.)

    Bush Bills $100k

    Class act and former president George W. Bush, who still has all his limbs, billed a charity for wounded military veterans $100,000 in speaking fees in 2012. Bush charged Texas-based Helping a Hero that amount in 2012. The organization also provided Bush with private jet travel to Houston at a cost of $20,000.

    And in a gesture that would make a Clinton proud, Laura Bush pocketed $50,000 after appearing for the group in 2011.

    “It was great because Bush reduced his normal fee of $250,000 down to $100,000,” said Meredith Iler, Helping a Hero’s former chairwoman. That’s actually not even true; a recent report by Politico said Bush’s fees typically ranged between $100,000 and $175,000 during those years.

    Helping a Hero, when it is not paying out six figure speaking fees, also fundraises for homes for military veterans. It focuses on men and women who suffered in Bush’s own two signature wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. But be sure to see more on how the wealthy charity folks don’t help veterans while enriching themselves, below.



    Few Regrets

    Former Marine Eddie Wright, a former member of Helping a Hero’s board, criticized the payout.

    “For him to be paid to raise money for veterans that were wounded in combat under his orders, I don’t think that’s right,” Wright said. “You sent me to war. I was doing what you told me to do, gladly for you and our country and I have no regrets.”

    George W., too, has few regrets. He told one reporter he plans to “replenish the ol’ coffers” on the lecture circuit. A spokesperson for Bush confirmed the payment and added, “President Bush has made helping veterans one of his highest priorities in his post presidency.”

    “But it is kind of a slap in the face,” added Wright, who lost both hands during a rocket attack in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.

    BONUS: Fallujah is now fully-controlled by Islamic State. Speaking opportunities for Bush are limited there, but in other ways I’m sure IS would love to see him drop by.



    Wealthy Hero Charity Mostly Helps Themselves, Not Vets

    The great Americans at Helping a Hero have come under criticism for, well, helping themselves.

    In the last seven years, Helping A Hero provided 65 homes across the nation for wounded war veterans. So that’s a little better than nine a year. They must also be nice homes — the charity pulled in $4 million in donations just last year. A little math says each home must either be worth close to $450,000, or the money is going somewhere else, maybe to speeches and private jets.

    Also, a number of veterans who have received these homes, as well as former board members and workers in the organization, have complained about a lack of financial transparency. They have cited mortgage contracts with special stipulations such as requiring new home­owners to promote the organization over a 10-year period or risk losing their houses. And they say Meredith Iler, Helping a Hero’s now-former chairwoman, pressured veterans and their wives to sell chemical-free beauty and health care products made by a company called Arbonne International.

    Arbonne uses home parties to sell products through direct sales, like Mary Kay or Avon. And guess what — the company awarded Meredith Iler a free Mercedes-Benz after she rose from sales consultant to regional vice president in 90 days based on her “team’s” sales.

    Helping a Hero is also now the subject of a pending lawsuit to stop the charity from reclaiming a house from the family of a blind soldier who died after receiving the property.

    Retired Army Colonel Karen Lloyd, the organization’s former public relations chairman who resigned from the board, questioned $7,500 in expenses listed on the balance sheet for the 2011 “Rodeo Queens for the Troops” Christmas party that she helped organize. She said the venue, barbecue, pies and candy canes were all donated, but she didn’t know who paid for the expensive Arbonne gift bags handed out. Lloyd further alleges “waste, fraud and abuse” of charity funds, “illegal raffle ticket sales” by the charity, and Iler “benefiting personally from the charity’s credit card.”

    Iler denies everything. Of course she does.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • FBI, DHS Now Zero for 40 at Predicting Terror Attacks

    July 9, 2015 // 2 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Police State

    TerrorAlert

    Did you make it through the July 4th weekend alive? No ISIS attacks? I drank 78 Red Bulls to stay alert and maintain constant vigilance in my backyard, after fearing ISIS chatter was singling me out for retribution. I lived to write this.

    Were you scared about the full week’s worth of warnings from the FBI, DHS and their spokespersons at CNN, FOX and other media outlets?

    You shouldn’t have been. Website Fair.org chronicles almost 15 years of fear-mongering via warnings that meant nothing. Their list is just below. However, first, it is worth noting that real terror things, such as the failed by being too dumb to set off a bomb Times Square bomber, the failed by being too dumb to set off a bomb “Underwear bomber,” and the killed (OK, sadly) all of three people Boston bombing were accompanied by no such government warnings. Not a word about the deadlier terrorist attacks by right-wing white supremacist terrorists.

    Here’s the full list of the government’s 0 for 40 warning record:

    October 2001: “Potential use of chemical/biological and/or radiological/nuclear weapons“
    November 2001: California bridges
    February 2002: “Hollywood studios”
    May 2002: Statue of Liberty
    June 2002: “Around the Fourth of July holiday”
    July 2002: Stadiums
    August 2002: “Landmarks”
    October 2002: “AQ to attack Amtrak”
    November 2002: “Spectacular Al Qaeda attacks”
    February 2003: “Apartments, hotels, sports arenas and amusement parks“
    May 2003: “Possibility of multiple attacks”
    May 2004: “Attempt to affect the outcome” of presidential election
    July 2004: “Military facilities and large gatherings” on July 4th
    August 2004: VA hospitals
    January 2005: Dirty bomb
    March 2005: US/Mexican border
    October 2005: NYC & Baltimore subways
    March 2006: “Sporting events”
    June 2007: Colleges
    December 2007: “Shopping malls in Chicago and LA”
    November 2008: “Al Qaeda to attack transit during Thanksgiving”
    November 2010: Mass transit in New York City
    October 2011: “Americans in Europe” facing “commando-style AQ attack”
    February 2011: “Financial institutions”
    May 2011: “Threats of retaliation”
    June 2011: Al Qaeda “hit list”
    July 2011: “Private jets of executives” involved in drone manufacturing
    September 2011: “Small planes”
    September 2011: “New York City or Washington around…10th anniversary of 9/11”
    September 2011: Airports
    March 2012: “Terrorist hacking”
    August 2012: Anarchists blowing up bridge during Tampa RNC
    September 2012: “Islamic violence over movie”
    August 2013: “San Francisco on high alert”
    November 2013: “cyber attacks”
    April 2014: “College students abroad”
    December 2014: ISIS targeting Mississippi River bridge
    December 2014: ISIS “sabotaging US military personnel” over social media
    April 2015: ISIS targeting “parts of California”
    May 2015: ISIS targeting “military bases”
    July 2015: ISIS targeting July 4

    Sleep tight America, knowing rough men stand ready on those walls to try and scare you into obedience.




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • No One Knows Where $210 Million USAID-funded Afghan Clinics Are

    July 8, 2015 // 5 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, PRT Life

    head_up_ass

    No one knows — literally, geographically, physically — what happened to $210 million in American taxpayer money spent by USAID, a part of your U.S. Department of State, on Afghan health programs.

    This is not a case of “well, it went to buy a heck of a lot of filing cabinets,” or “it was flushed down the toilet,” though those things are indeed possible. No, it appears that by using geospatial imagery, the Special Inspector for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR; slogan: “Can we please go home now?”) determined that 80 percent of the health facilities that were supposed to have been built never were.

    Worse yet, USAID accepted hilariously inaccurate data as proof of construction, including coordinates that would have located a medical facility in the middle of the Mediterranean.


    But the real wackiness is, as always, in the details:

    — Thirteen coordinates for funded Afghan projects were not even located in Afghanistan, with one located in the Mediterranean Sea.

    — Coordinates for 30 facilities were located in a province different from the one USAID reported.

    — In 13 cases, USAID reported two different funded facilities at the same coordinates.

    — 189 sets of coordinates showed no physical structure within 400 feet of the reported coordinates, and a subset of 81, or just under half of these locations, showed no physical structure within a half mile of the reported coordinates.

    — 154 coordinates did not identify a specific building.

    Takeaways? The buffoons running the USAID programs are just phoning it in. They are not even trying anymore to hide their own corruption, sloth, stupidity or lack of even the slightest concern for oversight. Any bonehead with Google Maps could have discovered with four mouse clicks USAID was being fed bogus data by its contractors, though apparently USAID is short of boneheads at present to do that work.

    As the inspectors at SIGAR sum it all up, “To provide meaningful oversight of these facilities, USAID needs to know where they are.”

    Play the USAID Game at Home, Kids! Based on coordinates provided, pictured is one supposed clinic, perched on a glacial peak:

    19298101245_a3089a9aec_z



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Remembering the Death of Kelly Thomas at the Hands of the Police

    July 7, 2015 // 10 Comments

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Police State, Post-Constitution America

    kelly




    If a video of ISIS doing this to an American played on TV this afternoon, all of the country would be in an uproar. When it happened in America, there was barely a whisper.

    This week marks the fourth anniversary of the beating death of American Citizen Kelly Thomas at the hands of the Fullerton Police. All three cops seen in the video were found not guilty. The victim, Kelly, is shown in the hospital just before his death.

    I’m sorry if the image offended you, or if you are thinking of clicking away and unfollowing me on Twitter, but I am offended by what is happening in our country.



    Who the Cops Work For

    Kelly Thomas was a homeless man diagnosed with schizophrenia who lived on the streets of Fullerton, California. He was known to frequent an alleyway near a swanky restaurant. The owner didn’t like that, and allegedly phoned in a fake 911 report that Thomas was vandalizing cars to get the Fullerton Police on the scene to “take care” of the problem.

    The cops did their job. The really cleaned up the stain of a homeless guy getting in the way of someone making money.

    Kelly Thomas was beaten and killed by cops Jay Cicinelli, Manuel Ramos, and Joseph Wolfe on July 5, 2011. Thomas was comatose on arrival at the hospital, where he was taken after the three cops had had their fill of beating him. He never regained consciousness, and died on July 10, 2011.

    For nine minutes and 40 seconds, the officers pummeled Thomas to the ground, with Ramos delivering volleys of punches and beating Thomas with his baton and Cicinelli tasing the homeless man twice in the face.



    Choked on His Own Blood

    Medical records show that bones in Thomas’ face were broken and he choked on his own blood. The coroner concluded that compression of the thorax made it impossible for Thomas to breathe normally and deprived his brain of oxygen. The cops who beat him into that condition did not render any first aid on the scene, which may have saved their victim’s life.

    Officer Manuel Ramos (the cop at the beginning of the video who asks “See my fists?”) was charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter; Corporal Jay Cicinelli and Officer Joseph Wolfe were each charged with one count of felony involuntary manslaughter and one count of excessive force.

    All three pleaded not guilty.



    Justice, American Style

    A judge declined to dismiss the charges against the officers in January 2013, finding that “a reasonable person could infer that the use of force was excessive and unreasonable.” The case went to trial and Ramos and Cicinelli were found not guilty of all charges. Following the verdict for the two officers, the district attorney’s office announced it would not pursue the case against Officer Wolfe.

    The defense argued cops must protect themselves when they believe they are in danger, without fear of prosecution for handling the incident with force.

    If this wasn’t wrong, then nothing can ever be wrong.







    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Emma Watson Will Train Afghan Men to Be Feminists

    July 6, 2015 // 5 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Democracy

    sexy-emma-watson-wallpaper


    So here we skip over to Afghanistan.

    As the UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, important actress Emma Watson (pictured above in traditional Afghan garb) has spent the last year trying to convince men that women’s equality is more than just a women’s issue. In the U.S., her “He for She” campaign gained the support of celebs like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who tweeted about it, and Steve Carell, who wore the campaign logo on his cufflink at the Oscars. Because of that tweet, and those now-famous cufflinks, women’s equality has been forever fixed in the Homeland.

    Ambassador Watson now has set out to complete her journey by taking the “He for She” struggle to Afghanistan. Apparently the Taliban, whom the U.S. is almost done defeating after 14 years of war, are not nice to their female property, and Emma is so on that thing.

    To kick off the UN campaign’s launch in Afghanistan last week, “local activists,” (i.e., a few women rounded up and paid taxi fare to attend) government officials (i.e., a few thugs who live off foreign graft rounded up and paid taxi fare to attend), and foreign dignitaries (i.e., a few UN interns rounded up and paid taxi fare to attend) met at a Kabul high school to demonstrate how men play an integral role in the fight for women’s rights. Using the slogan “A brave man stands for women,” activists took the stage and shared stories that attempted to reposition the fight for women’s rights as a courageous and valiant undertaking.

    The underlying message was that gender equality can’t be achieved unless men change the way they view women. It’s a major shift in tactics considering that up until recently, gender equality in Afghanistan has been framed largely as a cause taken up by women.

    Super quick reality check: So this has been the problem all along! The Taliban, and the thugs who preceded them, as well as the corrupt men who have been running Afghanistan for the last fourteen years of freedom under the direct supervision of the United States, just didn’t know that it was “a guy thing.” All those “honor killings” and rapes and child brides and murder of women, or that thing last month when a mob in downtown Kabul lynched a 27-year-old woman for allegedly burning a Quran, are just a perception issue.

    Easy fix. Ambassador Watson and the UN have set a lofty goal of acquiring signatures from 3,000 Afghan men and boys pledging to stand up for women’s rights on the “He for She” website (it is unclear 3,000 Afghans of any gender have access to the Internet.) It’s part of a broader aim to acquire pledges from one billion men and boys worldwide by the time the UN General Assembly convenes in September.

    This is all off to a great start — Emma’s website currently boasts 327,488 signatures! The bad news: the majority of them originated in the United States. Only 325 signatures came from Afghanistan, most likely from people rounded up and paid taxi fare to visit one of Kabul’s fine Internet cafes.

    But the program is not just sitting on its hands. It will fix all gender problems further in Afghanistan by gaining endorsements from “Afghan celebrities,” and screening a documentary film telling human-interest stories depicting the plight of Afghan women.

    And if all that fails, Ambassador Watson, who starred in the Harry Potter movies as empowered wizard Hermione Granger, will just wave her wand and shout “Reparo!” Come to think of it, that might have a better chance of helping than the rest of this silliness.

    Five points to Gryffindor!




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Home of the Brave: And Please Panic This July 4th

    July 3, 2015 // 18 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Police State, Post-Constitution America

    4th

    America used to be a country with balls. Now, our government wants to make us into a nation of scaredy cats, existing in a state of constant fear and near-panic, like we were kids worrying if the school bully was waiting for us after school.

    Here’s the basic theme for this weekend: Americans need to remain vigilant to the threat of a terrorist attack, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Michael McCaul, warned. He said there has been increased chatter on social media that indicates terrorists may be planning to strike during the celebrations. “I am extremely concerned Syrian and ISIS recruiters can use the Internet at lightning speeds to recruit followers in the United States and then activate them to do whatever they want to do. Whether it’s military installations, law enforcement or possibly a Fourth of July event parade.”

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting here a week from today talking about an attack over the weekend in the United States. That’s how serious this is,” former CIA deputy director Michael Morell told CBS. “There’s been about 50 people in the last 12 months who have been arrested in the United States for being radicalized by ISIS, wanting to go fight there or wanting to conduct an attack here.”

    USA Today added to the fear-mongering, noting “While there was no specific or credible threat of attack, the official said the intelligence bulletin prepared by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI alerted local colleagues to the ongoing threats posed by the Islamic State and other homegrown extremists. The official was not authorized to comment publicly.”

    So let’s break this down, ahead of your BBQ, beach time and backyard sparklers.

    America has suffered one significant foreign terror attack in the 239 years since the July 4th we celebrate this weekend. That attack was fourteen years ago and while tragic, took a similar number of lives has the number of Americans who have died since from toxoplasmotic brain parasites. The 2011 Report on Terrorism from the National Counterterrorism Center notes Americans are just as likely to be “crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year” as they are to be killed by terrorists. Perhaps even sadder, about double the number of Americans killed on 9/11 have died in the still-ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Disagree with one set of numbers, pick your favorite statistic/comparison, but you get the idea.

    Noteworthy is that while fourteen years ago, and for most of the succeeding years, is that the government warned the attacks were to be carried out or threatened by foreigners. This weekend’s warnings, however, point at Americans who want to do harm to other Americans. That seems to be one of the most significant “achievements” of the fourteen year war of terror, turning us into them.

    So this July 4, in honor of America’s 239th birthday, our government tells us not to be brave and free, but to be scared and fearful. We need to watch around us, and we need especially to watch our fellow citizens. One of them might be a lone wolf, supposedly “radicalized” by 140 characters he read on Twitter. We are to balance in our minds the conflicting images of a government that takes away our civil rights and pisses away our tax dollars to protect us while simultaneously saying they may not be able to protect us.

    Whatever you do this July 4th, don’t look for me there. I’ll be at home, doors locked, weapons cocked and ready in abject terror, trying not to remember what I’ll be drinking to forget. Happy Birthday America.




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • On ‘The Heat’ Discussing the Failed American Strategy in Iraq

    July 2, 2015 // 4 Comments

    Tags:
    Posted in: Iran, Iraq, Military

    While the U.S. media panders to its audience via the blood sport of calling for more airstrikes, more weapons, more boots on the ground and overall more killing to “win” this time in Iraq, alternative sources of news seek out alternative voices. In this case, mine. Here’s what I had to say on Chinese television (CCTV) on the subject.





    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Five (More) Things That Won’t Work in Iraq

    July 1, 2015 // 16 Comments

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iran, Iraq

    iraq valentine


    In one form or another, the U.S. has been at war with Iraq since 1990, including a sort-of invasion in 1991 and a full-scale one in 2003.

    During that quarter-century, Washington imposed several changes of government, spent trillions of dollars, and was involved in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. None of those efforts were a success by any conceivable definition of the term Washington has been capable of offering.

    Nonetheless, it’s the American Way to believe with all our hearts that every problem is ours to solve and every problem must have a solution, which simply must be found. As a result, the indispensable nation faces a new round of calls for ideas on what “we” should do next in Iraq.

    With that in mind, here are five possible “strategies” for that country on which only one thing is guaranteed: none of them will work.


    1. Send in the Trainers

    In May, in the wake of the fall of the Sunni city of Ramadi to Islamic State (IS) fighters, President Obama announced a change of course in Iraq. After less than a year of not defeating, degrading, or destroying the Islamic State, the administration will now send in hundreds more military personnel to set up a new training base at Taqaddum in Anbar Province. There are already five training sites running in Iraq, staffed by most of the 3,100 military personnel the Obama administration has sent in. Yet after nine months of work, not a single trained Iraqi trooper has managed to make it into a combat situation in a country embroiled in armed chaos.

    The base at Taqaddum may only represent the beginning of a new “surge.” General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has begun to talk up what he calls “lily pads,” American baselets set up close to the front lines, from which trainers would work with Iraqi security forces. Of course, such lily pads will require hundreds more American military advisers to serve as flies, waiting for a hungry Islamic State frog.

    Leaving aside the all-too-obvious joke — that Dempsey is proposing the creation of a literal swamp, a desert quagmire of the lilypad sort — this idea has been tried. It failed over the eight years of the occupation of Iraq, when the U.S. maintained an archipelago of 505 bases in the country. (It also failed in Afghanistan.) At the peak of Iraq War 2.0, 166,000 troops staffed those American bases, conducting some $25 billion worth of training and arming of Iraqis, the non-results of which are on display daily. The question then is: How could more American trainers accomplish in a shorter period of time what so many failed to do over so many years?

    There is also the American belief that if you offer it, they will come. The results of American training so far, as Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made clear recently, have fallen far short of expectations. By now, U.S. trainers were to have whipped 24,000 Iraqi soldiers into shape. The actual number to date is claimed to be some 9,000 and the description of a recent “graduation” ceremony for some of them couldn’t have been more dispiriting. (“The volunteers seemed to range in age from late teens to close to 60.” Given how much training the U.S. has made available in Iraq since 2003, it’s hard to imagine that too many young men have not given the option some thought. Simply because Washington opens more training camps, there is no reason to assume that Iraqis will show up.

    Oddly enough, just before announcing his new policy, President Obama seemed to pre-agree with critics that it wasn’t likely to work. “We’ve got more training capacity than we’ve got recruits,” he said at the close of the G7 summit in Germany. “It’s not happening as fast as it needs to.” Obama was on the mark. At the al-Asad training facility, the only one in Sunni territory, for instance, the Iraqi government has not sent a single new recruit to be trained by those American advisers for the past six weeks.

    And here’s some bonus information: for each U.S. soldier in Iraq, there are already two American contractors. Currently some 6,300 of them are in the country. Any additional trainers mean yet more contractors, ensuring that the U.S. “footprint” made by this no-boots-on-the-ground strategy will only grow and General Dempsey’s lilypad quagmire will come closer to realization.


    2. Boots on the Ground

    Senator John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, is the most vocal proponent of America’s classic national security go-to move: send in U.S. troops. McCain, who witnessed the Vietnam War unfold, knows better than to expect Special Forces operatives, trainers, advisers, and combat air traffic controllers, along with U.S. air power, to turn the tide of any strategic situation. His response is to call for more — and he’s not alone. On the campaign trail recently, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, for instance, suggested that, were he president, he would consider a full-scale “re-invasion” of Iraq. Similarly, General Anthony Zinni, former head of U.S. Central Command, urged the sending in of many boots: “I can tell you, you could put ground forces on the ground now and we can destroy ISIS.”

    Among the boots-on-the-ground crowd are also some former soldiers who fought in Iraq in the Bush years, lost friends, and suffered themselves. Blinking through the disillusion of it all, they prefer to believe that we actually won in Iraq (or should have, or would have, if only the Bush and Obama administrations hadn’t squandered the “victory”). Needed now, they claim, are more U.S. troops back on the ground to win the latest version of their war. Some are even volunteering as private citizens to continue the fight. Can there be a sadder argument than the “it can’t all have been a waste” one?

    The more-troops option is so easy to dismiss it’s hardly worth another line: if over eight years of effort, 166,000 troops and the full weight of American military power couldn’t do the trick in Iraq, what could you possibly expect even fewer resources to accomplish?


    3. Partnering with Iran

    As hesitancy within the U.S. military to deploy ground forces in Iraq runs into chicken-hawk drum-pounding in the political arena, working ever more closely with Iran has become the default escalation move. If not American boots, that is, what about Iranian boots?

    The backstory for this approach is as odd a Middle Eastern tale as you can find.

    The original Obama administration plan was to use Arab, not Iranian, forces as proxy infantry. However, the much-ballyhooed 60-nation pan-Arab coalition proved little more than a short-lived photo op. Few, if any, of their planes are in the air anymore. America flies roughly 85% of all missions against Islamic State targets, with Western allies filling in a good part of the rest. No Arab ground troops ever showed up and key coalition countries are now openly snubbing Washington over its possible nuclear deal with Iran.

    Washington has, of course, been in a Cold War-ish relationship with Iran since 1979 when the Shah fell and radical students took over the American Embassy in Tehran. In the 1980s, the U.S. aided Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, while in the years after the invasion of 2003 Iran effectively supported Iraqi Shiite militias against American forces occupying the country. Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, currently directing his country’s efforts in Iraq, was once one of the most wanted men on America’s kill list.

    In the wake of the 2014 Islamic State capture of Mosul and other northern Iraqi cities, Iran ramped up its role, sending in trainers, advisers, arms, and its own forces to support the Shiite militias that Baghdad saw as its only hope. The U.S. initially turned a blind eye on all this, even as Iranian-led militias, and possibly the Iranians themselves, became consumers of close American air support.

    In Washington right now, there is a growing, if quiet, acknowledgment that Iranian help is one of the few things that might push IS back without the need for U.S. ground troops. Small but telling escalations are occurring regularly. In the battle to retake the northern Sunni city of Tikrit, for example, the United States flew air missions supporting Shiite militias; the fig leaf of an explanation: that they operated under Iraqi government, not Iranian, control.

    “We’re going to provide air cover to all forces that are under the command and control of the government of Iraq,” a U.S. Central Command spokesperson similarly noted in reference to the coming fight to retake the city of Ramadi. That signals a significant shift, former State Department official Ramzy Mardini points out. “The U.S. has effectively changed its position, coming to the realization that Shiite militias are a necessary evil in the fight against IS.” Such thinking may extend to Iranian ground troops now evidently fighting outside the strategic Beiji oil refinery.

    Things may be even cozier between the U.S. and the Iranian-backed Shiite militias than we previously thought. Bloomberg reports that U.S. soldiers and Shiite militia groups are both already using the Taqaddum military base, the very place where President Obama is sending the latest 450 U.S. military personnel.

    The downside? Help to Iran only sets up the next struggle the U.S. is likely to bumble into due to a growing Iranian hegemony in the region. Syria, perhaps?


    4. Arm the Kurds

    The Kurds represent Washington’s Great Hope for Iraq, a dream that plays perfectly into an American foreign policy trope about needing to be “liked” by someone. (Try Facebook.) These days, glance at just about any conservative website or check out right-wing pundits and enjoy the propaganda about the Kurds: they are plucky fighters, loyal to America, tough bastards who know how to stand and deliver. If only we gave them more weapons, they would kill more Islamic State bad guys just for us. To the right-wing crowd, they are the twenty-first-century equivalent of Winston Churchill in World War II, crying out, “Just give us the tools and we’ll defeat Hitler!”

    There is some slight truth in all this. The Kurds have indeed done a good job of pushing IS militants out of swaths of northern Iraq and were happy for U.S. assistance in getting their Peshmerga fighters to the Turkish border when the locus of fighting was the city of Kobane. They remain thankful for the continuing air support the U.S. is providing their front-line troops and for the limited weapons Washington has already sent.

    For Washington, the problem is that Kurdish interests are distinctly limited when it comes to fighting Islamic State forces. When the de facto borders of Kurdistan were directly threatened, they fought like caffeinated badgers. When the chance to seize the disputed town of Erbil came up — the government in Baghdad was eager to keep it within its sphere of control — the Kurds beat the breath out of IS.

    But when it comes to the Sunni population, the Kurds don’t give a hoot, as long as they stay away from Kurdistan. Has anyone seen Kurdish fighters in Ramadi or anywhere else in heavily Sunni al-Anbar Province? Those strategic areas, now held by the Islamic State, are hundreds of actual miles and millions of political miles from Kurdistan. So, sure, arm the Kurds. But don’t expect them to play a strategic role against IS outside their own neighborhood. A winning strategy for the Kurds involving Washington doesn’t necessarily translate into a winning strategy for Washington in Iraq.


    5. That Political Solution

    Washington’s current man in Baghdad, Prime Minister al-Abadi, hasn’t moved his country any closer to Sunni-Shiite reconciliation than his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, did. In fact, because Abadi has little choice but to rely on those Shiite militias, which will fight when his corrupt, inept army won’t, he has only drawn closer to Iran. This has ensured that any (American) hope of bringing Sunnis into the process in a meaningful way as part of a unified government in a unified state will prove to be a pipe dream.

    A balance of forces is a prerequisite for a Shiite-Sunni-Kurdish federal Iraq. With no side strong enough to achieve victory or weak enough to lose, negotiations could follow. When then-Senator Joe Biden first proposed the idea of a three-state Iraq in 2006, it just might have been possible. However, once the Iranians had built a Shiite Iraqi client state in Baghdad and then, in 2014, unleashed the militias as an instrument of national power, that chance was lost.

    Many Sunnis see no other choice but to support the Islamic State, as they did al-Qaeda in Iraq in the years after the American invasion of 2003. They fear those Shiite militias — and with good reason. Stories from the largely Sunni city of Tikrit, where militia-led forces defeated Islamic State fighters, describe “a ghost town ruled by gunmen.” In the Euphrates Valley town of Jurf al-Sakhar, there were reports of ethnic cleansing. Similarly, the mainly Sunni population of the city of Nukhayb, which sits at a strategic crossroad between Sunni and Shiite areas, has accused the militias of taking over while pretending to fight the extremists.

    There remains great fear in Sunni-dominated Anbar of massacres and “cleansing” if Shiite militias enter the province in force. In such a situation, there will always be a place for an al-Qaeda, an Islamic State, or some similar movement, no matter how brutal, to defend the beleaguered Sunni population. What everyone in Iraq understands, and apparently almost everyone in America does not, is that the Islamic State is a symptom of civil war, not a standalone threat.

    One lingering hope of the Obama administration has no support in Baghdad and so has remained a non-starter: defeating IS by arming Sunni tribes directly in the style of the “Anbar Awakening” movement of the occupation years. Indeed, the central government fears arming them, absent a few token units to keep the Americans quiet. The Shiites know better than most what an insurgency can do to help defeat a larger, better-armed, power.

    Yet despite the risk of escalating Iraq’s shadow civil war, the U.S. now is moving to directly arm the Sunnis. Current plans are to import weapons into the newest lilypad base in Anbar and pass them on to local Sunni tribes, whether Baghdad likes that or not (and yes, the break with Baghdad is worth noting). The weapons themselves are as likely to be wielded against Shiite militias as against the Islamic State, assuming they aren’t just handed over to IS fighters.

    The loss of equipment to those militants is no small thing. No one talking about sending more new weaponry to Iraq, no matter who the recipient is, should ignore the ease with which Islamic State militants have taken U.S.-supplied heavy weapons. Washington has been forced to direct air strikes against such captured equipment — even as it ships yet more in. In Mosul, some 2,300 Humvees were abandoned to IS fighters in June 2014; more were left to them when Iraqi army forces suddenly fled Ramadi in May. This pattern of supply, capture, and resupply would be comically absurd, had it not turned tragic when some of those Humvees were used by IS as rolling, armored suicide bombs and Washington had to rush AT-4 anti-tank missiles to the Iraqi army to destroy them.


    The Real Reason Nothing Is Going to Work

    The fundamental problem underlying nearly every facet of U.S. policy toward Iraq is that “success,” as defined in Washington, requires all the players to act against their own wills, motivations, and goals in order to achieve U.S. aims. The Sunnis need a protector as they struggle for a political place, if not basic survival, in some new type of Iraq. The Shiite government in Baghdad seeks to conquer and control the Sunni regions. Iran wants to secure Iraq as a client state and use it for easier access to Syria. The Kurds want an independent homeland.

    When Secretary of Defense Ash Carter remarked, “What apparently happened [in Ramadi] was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight,” what he really meant was that the many flavors of forces in Iraq showed no will to fight for America’s goals. In the Washington mind-set, Iraq is charged with ultimate responsibility for resolving problems that were either created by or exacerbated by the U.S. in the first place, even as America once again assumes an ever-greater role in that country’s increasingly grim fate.

    For America’s “plan” to work, Sunni tribesmen would have to fight Sunnis from the Islamic State in support of a Shiite government that suppressed their peaceful Arab-Spring-style protests, and that, backed by Iran, has been ostracizing, harassing, and murdering them. The Kurds would have to fight for an Iraqi nation-state from which they wish to be independent. It can’t work.

    Go back to 2011 and it’s unlikely anyone could have imagined that the same guy who defeated Hillary Clinton and gained the White House based on his opposition to the last Iraq War would send the U.S. tumbling back into that chaotic country. If ever there was an avoidable American crisis, Iraq War 3.0 is it. If ever there was a war, whatever its chosen strategies, in which the U.S. has no hopes of achieving its goals, this is it.

    By now, you’re undoubtedly shaking your head and asking, “How did this happen?” Historians will do the same.




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Turkey May Invade Syria, but to Stop the Kurds, Not IS

    June 30, 2015 // 4 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Iraq

    1 jeysh torki



    Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be planning to invade northern Syria to prevent Kurds from forming their own state there.



    Turkey to Invade Syria

    In a speech last Friday, Erdogan vowed that Turkey would not accept a move by Syrian Kurds to set up their own state in Syria following gains against Islamic State (IS). “We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria,” Erdogan said. “We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be.” He accused Syrian Kurds of ethnic cleansing in Syrian areas under their control.

    Reports are Erdogan will send the Turkish army into Syria. Up to 18,000 soldiers would take and hold a strip of territory up to 20 miles deep and 60 miles long that currently is held by IS. It stretches from close to the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani in the east to an area further west held by the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups, beginning around the town of Mare. The “Mare Line” is to be secured with Turkish ground troops, artillery and air cover.



    Why This Matters

    — Turkey is entering the fighting in a big way. Turkey, a NATO country, is unilaterally and under dubious “defensive” standards invading another nation. Yeah, it’s 2015 that kind of thing happens pretty much all the time now, but it is still sort of worth noting.

    — Turkey is fighting the Kurds, a group whom the U.S. arms and supports as an anti-IS force. Anything Turkey does to weaken the Kurdish forces is in opposition to U.S. policy, may strengthen IS in the long run and may provoke some sort of political mess between Turkey and the U.S.

    — Turkish troops could easily get caught up in the general fighting now going on among IS, the Kurds and Syrian government troops, stepping smartly thus into the Syrian quagmire. Retaliation attacks by IS and/or Kurdish militants on Turkish territory may follow.

    — Kurdish forces supported by the U.S. elsewhere in Iraq may move against Turkey. This will weaken their efforts against IS in Iraq (a U.S. goal) and place additional pressure on the U.S. over whether or not to further arm, train and support them with air power.

    — NATO troops operating U.S.-supplied Patriot missiles near the Syrian border to shield member country Turkey against air attacks from Syria will be forced to either stand down completely, or try and discriminate in shooting back at an increasing crowded sky full of ambiguous good guys and bad guys.

    — Short version: a very messy situation will be getting worse.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • State Department Lamely Markets Anti-IS Messages to Millennials

    June 29, 2015 // 11 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq, Syria

    just_say_no_isis_terrorism_shirt

    I know a fair number of State Department employees peak at this blog, so I have a favor to ask.

    Would someone please tell the “social media gurus” at the State Department young people join Islamic State for a number of very serious and often deeply-held reasons — religion, disillusionment with the west, anger at American policy — and not because they saw an IS tweet? And that you can’t dissuade people from their beliefs simply with a clever hashtag and 140 characters of propaganda pablum?

    Yet the idea that the State Department can use social media to “counter program” IS’ message persists, even as its uselessness stares everyone but the State Department in the face.

    A Little Background on YouTube

    The State Department’s propaganda uses a negative message to try and counter the attraction of Islamic State. Started in 2011, State’s blather was only in foreign languages, moving into English in 2013. In 2014 year the work started showing up on YouTube. The theme then was “Think Again, Turn Away; the messaging was found on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and even on the sides of buses in New York City as posters. One YouTube video includes subtitles such as “learn useful skills, such as blowing up mosques” and “crucifying Muslims.” Another features oil being poured on the ground framed as “squandering public resources.

    The content is seemingly written more to appeal to Washington than potential jihadis, as you can see in this example. A lot of the messaging mocks potential recruits, claiming, for example, they read “Islam for Dummies” before heading to Syria. Those efforts cost between $5 million and $6.8 million a year.

    When in Doubt, Hire a Consultant

    With the clear failure of that messaging to stop the flow of western recruits to IS (State does like to point to proving the negative, suggesting they cannot measure people who did not join), the State Department is now trying a new version of the old strategy.

    EdVenture Partners, a company whose self-described mission is to connect clients with the “valuable and powerful millennial market” to sell junk to dumbasses, was hired to enlist student teams to combat violent extremism with some kind of digital effort — an app, a website or an online initiative. It was to be a contest; State would pick the winners and fund those as U.S. government propaganda, er, counter messaging.

    Because, see, up until now, the problem has been that those dang young people just weren’t “getting down” with the messages old people at State were “putting out there.” For real. Ya’all.

    “Millennials can speak better to millennials, there’s no question about that,” State Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kelly Keiderling, who was a judge in the competition, said, sounding like some 1950s educational film narrator.


    How to Defeat Islamic State

    So here’s how the young will be stopping other youngsters from joining Islamic State.

    — Australia’s Curtin University developed an app called 52Jumaa, which to support young Muslims. The app sends daily positive affirmations about Islam to users’ smartphones, allows them to connect with other Muslims and asks them to complete a selfless act of kindness every Friday.

    — Students at Texas A&M came up with a website idea called The Funny Militant, which would run jihadi-centric parodies, including a hilarious app for finding a jihadi bride and one called Who’s Your Bagdaddy?

    — Missouri State’s product, which won the competition, is a website about the dangers of violent extremism. The site provides English-language curriculum for teaching about the extreme ideological ideas on social media and how to recognize them. It also includes trivia, community boards and videos from people who have been directly affected by terrorism.

    Wait — the winner sounds almost exactly like the lame stuff the State Department already spews out, basically saying “IS is bad, so don’t do that,” the war on terror’s reboot of the 1980s anti-drug message “Just Say No.” The winning group also created a hashtag, so you know they are like super-serious: #EndViolentExtremism

    Here are all the winners of the competition. Looks can obviously be deceiving, but one does wonder how many Muslims are in a group seeking to speak directly to Muslims in a voice that doesn’t sound like a bunch of know-it-all white kids from the ‘burbs:





    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • To Hell with It, South to Double-Down on Slavery (Satire)

    June 27, 2015 // 2 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy

    redneck-car


    Noting that it has been a really bad week for bigots, the South decided the only answer is to double-down.

    “In one lousy week, everyone is taking down the Confederate flag, gays can now get married and people — even the blacks — can buy that Obamacare. It has just not been a good one for us. I even heard Cracker Barrel and Waffle House are switching away from trans-fats,” said spokesbigot ‘Clem’ (who isn’t sure that’s his real name.)

    “So what do you do? You fight back! The South will rise again!” shouted a second spokesredneck, letting out both a loud fart and a rebel yell from the broken down barco-lounger on his dilapidated front porch he could not rise from due to weighing 300 pounds and thus having to dress in a large Hefty bag.

    “Fighting back” in this instance is taking the form of actual slavery.

    “While it didn’t work out in the long game with Africans, oh, excuse me, ‘African-Americans,’ we want to try it again with other white people. We intend to enslave each other, kind of top and bottom, or least that’s what I heard. Or maybe it was on the online; Jeb just bought him a new modem for the AOL. Anyway, we’ll preserve the great Southern heritage and culture of dehumanization, narrow-mindedness and hate the only way we can at the present time, with white slaves.”

    “There are some details. First, we’ll need to come up with some good racial slurs to refer to each other as. The lame Supreme Court took away our good ones, so that’s a big issue right up front. Next, there is finding enough whites to be the slaves. We have a bunch of the good old boys down here wanting to volunteer, but we are also looking overseas, maybe to one of those European countries with a debt problem, to see if we can harvest some there. We’d kind of like to stick to the traditional way of bringing the slaves in by old-timey ships. Might attract some tourists, too.”

    “As for our manly essences, we will still spill them in service to the Lord’s decree that we reproduce. But if the Supreme Court wants us to be ‘fair,’ well, nobody is gonna be allowed to get married. We’ll do it in line with our culture, the way it has always been done: with our animals, our cousins, and our slaves.”

    “The government thinks it can take away our freedom to take away other people’s freedom, but we intend to show them.”




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

IP Blocking Protection is enabled by IP Address Blocker from LionScripts.com.